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Several companies and institutions are now doing research on a COVID-19 vaccine. How quickly they can develop the vaccine will depend on how clinical trials go. Getty Images
  • Some government and business officials are expressing hope that a vaccine against COVID-19 could be ready as early as January.
  • Experts say that goal is quite optimistic given the testing, manufacturing, and distribution that usually accompanies a new vaccine.
  • They do note that the genome sequencing for the new coronavirus has been done and a number of companies are doing research on a vaccine now.
  • They also note that some companies have agreed to begin manufacturing before clinical trials are completed.

The timeline to develop a safe, effective vaccine to fight a virus is typically counted in years — or even decades.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting millions around the world and killing hundreds of thousands of people, the race is on to produce a vaccine faster than ever before.

President Donald Trump a vaccine could be available by January, which would be an unprecedented development cycle.

体育投注网址But how realistic is that?

体育投注网址Experts say the goal is possible — but not likely.

体育投注网址“This is a highly ambitious goal and, although a possibility, it far exceeds any vaccine development timeline in the past,” , an infectious disease specialist and the chief executive officer and president of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, told Healthline.

“Several steps done in parallel can cut some time (e.g., starting manufacturing vaccines during early clinical studies),” he said, “but the fundamental steps that need to be taken through clinical trials and animal studies take time and cannot be short circuited when working to create a safe and effective vaccine that will be used worldwide in different types of people of different ages.”

There are a few factors working in favor of the possibility that we could have a COVID-19 vaccine sooner rather than later, even though experts are quick to note that the previously cited 12 to 18 month time frame would be the historical fast track.

The first is that while vaccines for other coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS, were never finally developed, the research done into understanding these viruses helped create the platform from which scientists could begin to understand COVID-19.

For instance, it took 4 months to sequence the genome for SARS in 2003. It took less than a week for researchers in China to sequence COVID-19 in early January, the reported.

体育投注网址Another factor is that there are nearly a dozen COVID-19 vaccines in development around the world.

Of these, four or five look promising, with two set for large-scale testing by July, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

体育投注网址The more teams there are working on vaccines with varied approaches worldwide, the greater likelihood one of them is successful.

体育投注网址“It’s not just one scientific concept that’s being pursued. All roads lead to Rome and there are a number of different roads being pursued,” said , a professor of preventive medicine in the Department of Health Policy and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee.

体育投注网址“The best result is that we get several different vaccines out there, all of which work. The worst is that none of them work. But probably we will be in the middle somewhere,” he said.

体育投注网址 early for regular vaccine trials, some companies are lining up “challenge trials,” an ethically controversial program in which human volunteers agree to be willingly exposed to the virus and risk injury to test the effectiveness of a vaccine.

“Challenging volunteers with this live virus risks inducing severe disease and possibly even death. However, we argue that such studies, by accelerating vaccine evaluation, could reduce the global burden of coronavirus-related mortality and morbidity,” in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

体育投注网址 of the vaccine by September if human trials are successful.

体育投注网址An animal trial — a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and Oxford University — of a different vaccine tested in macaque monkeys the apes against COVID-19, paving the way for a human clinical trial.

体育投注网址But perhaps the biggest headline in recent weeks has come from the drug company Moderna, whose COVID-19 vaccine antibodies in 45 participants.

Those antibodies could offer protection against the virus, although it’s too early to tell whether this treatment offers the protection of a fully tested vaccine.

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Of note, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which partnered with Moderna on the vaccine and created the prototype, has remained mum.

体育投注网址That example highlights a gap between what many want — a speedy, effective vaccine — and the cold realities of vaccine development.

“There’s a saying in research that there are a thousand ways to do an experiment wrong and that’s especially true in clinical research,” , MS, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, told Healthline.

“For one thing, the vaccine candidates might not actually work, or they might increase the virulence of a post-vaccination infection. Or the immunity could be too transient to justify vaccinating three billion people,” he said.

And those are just a few of the factors that could halt or inhibit successful development.

体育投注网址“There is a likelihood that the lead vaccines work in some people with some level of protection, the so-called prototype vaccines, but will not be optimized,” Schlesinger said. “This will slow the timetable to further develop the right dosing, route of administration, and knowledge regarding the timing of so-called booster shots that will be necessary for a sustained effect of the vaccine.”

“Based on the history of making vaccines, there are often stumbling blocks regarding safety and efficacy that markedly slow down the process,” he added.

体育投注网址In short: Stay optimistic, but be prepared to settle in for the long-haul.